Posted on July 1, 2016

HOUSING up to 1,250 scientists investigating new ways to treat, diagnose and prevent illnesses such as cancer, heart disease, pandemics and neurodegenerative diseases, life itself will be under the microscope in the cathedral-like Francis Crick Institute. The wondrous £700 million central London building will feature three-and-a-half floors of laboratory space.

Named after the British molecular biologist and neuroscientist who co-discovered the structure of DNA, following a five-year construction by Laing O’Rourke the Crick, as it is already known, is set to welcome researchers from six of the UK’s most influential scientific and academic institutions the Medical Research Council, Cancer Research UK, the Wellcome Trust, and London’s University College, Imperial College and King’s College.

Little wonder that the 79,000 square metres of research facilities were recently described as an altar to biomedical science. And playing a key role in ensuring the technicalities behind Europe’s largest biomedical research centre will operate to perfection is Applied Integration, a small but highly-skilled team of 30 engineers based in two unassuming buildings tucked away in a quiet corner of Stokesley Business Park.

It’s about as an exciting project as any Teesside company of their size could ever dream of being involved with and yet Applied Integration directors Graham King appears relaxed about their involvement. Perhaps the firm’s experience of working Astute class submarine on projects described as being the most complex build in the world today, has given them the sort of preparation that ensures Graham and his team take such prestige in their stride.

“It’s been so complex compared to a normal build,” he reflects on a project worth £500,000 to the North Yorkshire firm. “It’s been extremely technical but we’re now close to completion and the experience and knowledge we’ve taken from this will come in very useful on future projects.”

Working in partnership with ABB, Applied Integration designed and installed the power management systems for the Crick, complex hardware that will monitor and control the electricity throughout the epic building, ensuring the provision of automated changeover from mains to generator supplies in the event of a power cut.

This involves the synchronised control of three medium-voltage switchboards, coupled with an additional five low-voltage switchboards. The system features a large electrical management system monitoring more than 500 energy meters including electrical, gas, steam and water to allow the building’s control staff to monitor and report on the centre’s energy usage to ensure it remains within strict regulatory limits.

The project has demanded significant engineering resource over the last two years, ensuring the automation, control and visualisation systems integrate correctly but a commissioning team of just four now remain on site carrying out final checks on 500 energy meters around a building so enormous that it has its own way-finding app to help people get around.

Graham, who has personally worked on the project continues: “Our work is to ensure the research facility experiences minimal disruption to its core service in the event of a power cut. It’s been a challenge and an incredible amount of work to get all those units scattered around an eight-storey building to communicate to one another, especially as many of the meters are from different manufacturers utilising different communications methods.

“It’s been a huge project for us, with perhaps the greatest challenge being the sheer scale of the building and the long distances between different areas of the building.”

The Crick contract came as a result not only of Applied Integration’s ever-growing reputation as one of the UK’s leading experts in automated control systems but also through its strong, long-term partnership with ABB, a global force in power and automation technology.

“It was a prestigious contract to work on,” adds Graham. “Talks are now underway for five similar research facilities. Thanks to our relationship with ABB, we’re in a strong position to win that work too. Our experience and knowledge gained in working at the Crick Centre will certainly hold us in good stead to design the systems behind any similar work.”

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